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How can you convince someone that morality has genetic/evolutionary components who thought that it was entirely learned?

'Nature', according to the poet, Tennyson (1903), is 'red in tooth and claw' - a memorable phrase that encapsulates the prevailing view of Darwinian selection, that is to a say, a pitiless struggle among living things for personal survival.  And merciless conflict is indeed ever-present in nature, as the geneticist J.B.S Haldane (1968) vividly describes:

'Now, the most conspicuous features of animal organization are those which are designed … for competition with other living creatures … They may kill them, as we kill rabbits and potatoes, or merely eat parts of them, as we eat parts of the apple tree and the flea drinks part of us. A few, such as the blowflies, beetles, and 'worms', actually mostly insect larvae, which eat our bodies if they get the chance, eat only dead food, apart from bacteria .... The plants generally compete by pushing, rather than biting. Look at a plantain spreading its leaves over the grass of your lawn, or a tree cutting off the sun from the plants below it till they die …  they are all engaged in a merciless struggle for life' (p. 44).

But the research findings of Turnbull's are also striking for their rarity (upon its publication The Mountain People attracted widespread disbelief that a human tribe could be so lacking in quintessentially 'human' qualities), and might simply represent the 'exception that proves the rule'.  They would certainly offer our hypothetical acquaintance an example of the way society might present itself, once its natural moral tendencies have been completely eroded - or the way society might look if it had no innate moral tendencies to begin with.  Similarly the lack of vital psychological development exhibited in deprived and feral children (Curtiss, 1981) and Skuse et al, (1992) suggests that without an innate disposition towards parental care-giving, human social behaviour - and perhaps human life itself - would cease to be a viable proposition if children lacked the sufficient nurture to thrive until the point of reproductive maturity.  And without the reciprocal altruism, co-operation and involving the pooling of resources for mutual benefit, as is observed in hunter-gathering societies the world over, it is questionable whether humans would have ever been capable of adequately feeding themselves. 

As for universal societal taboos such as incest that appear, on the one hand, to be universal, but seem to serve no purpose (in that contravening them is essentially a 'victimless crime' in the case of consenting adults), it is difficult to identify any causal factor, other than that offered by selfish gene theory: the avoidance of dysfunctional mutations caused by inbreeding.  So while, whether we are talking about internal (dispositional) or external (ie., societally-imposed) morality, it may be ultimately impossible to 'prove' evolutionary causation, in the face of evidence presented here there would appear to be very strong argument for an innate human disposition towards a range of behaviours we choose to class as 'moral'.  Without this innate moral tendency, humans might all be as developmentally stunted as 'Genie', as combative and uncooperative as the Ik, and recognising no sexual or other societal norms.  These are, of course, mere speculations, but our present task has been to persuade an unconvinced acquaintance that morality is not entirely learned, rather than to argue that morality is entirely innate.  It might be safest to conclude that both positions are equally untenable.

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